[Published in Asiaville, April 6, 2020]

On March 24, 2020, India joined the host of other countries by instituting sweeping lockdown measures to contain the community spread of Coronavirus, through social distancing. To say such a policy response has far-reaching implications for economic, political and social spheres of life is trite. Like in many crisis situations, men and women are differently affected by such measures enacted by the State. …


[Published in Asiaville, January 27, 2020]

In 2018, during a visit to the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York, I saw the building’s lobby filled with hand-made paper butterflies of different colors and shapes. At first, I thought it must have been part of a nature conservation project. But I was wrong. I discovered that the 14 panels that housed hundreds of these butterflies were made by children from six continents to commemorate the lives of 1.5 million children, who perished in the Holocaust [of which more than one million were Jewish children]. Each butterfly sought to remember a…


[Published in The Kochi Post, May 8, 2019]

On April 10, 2019, the world witnessed an event of historic significance — the first ever image of the Black Hole was released by an international team of scientists at the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). What followed this was the celebration of the outcome and the process that helped uncover an event of this scale and enormity. Soon, Katie Bouman, a 29-year old computer scientist who was a member of EHT became the face of this discovery. It was an algorithm which she created three years ago, during her doctoral study at…


In June, 2018, Reuters reported an incident in Madhya Pradesh. A mob of 50+ villagers beat up two men on the suspicion that they were murdering people and harvesting their organs. The source of information was a Whatsapp text message. Weeks following this incident, a Whatsapp hoax about child traffickers inflamed similar incidents — mob lynching and killings of innocent persons — in parts of New Delhi.

With more than 200 million active users in India, the recent fake news incidents have made Whatsapp a black sheep in the social media family. But examples from around the globe suggest that…


[Published in Madras Courier, January 14, 2019]

From left — Angela Jurdak (Lebanon), Fryderyka Kalinowski (Poland), Bodil Begtrup (Denmark), Minerva Bernardino (Dominical Republic), and Hansa Mehta (India), delegates to the UN’s Sub-Commission on the Status of Women, New York, May 1946 /UN Photo

In today’s world marred by conflicts, inequality, mass displacement and instances of gross human rights violations, the relevance of human rights as a concept, practicable goal, and even hope for many has only increased. Ever since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nearly 70 years ago, it has served as a guiding force behind many international laws, politico-legal frameworks, and constitutions around the world. …


[Published in The News Minute, August 26, 2018]

The floods which hit Kerala in August 2018 has killed more than 370 people, displaced over 800,000, and led to an estimated infrastructure loss of $3 billion. In response to this unprecedented tragedy, there came to fore many instances of ingenuity and collaboration, which allowed for the generosity of individuals to scale. These lessons learnt however are likely to be forgotten as the floods recede from the front pages.

This piece is an early attempt to document the diverse types of responses we saw, many of which ought to be studied and…


[Published in Madras Courier, September 6, 2018]

As a child, I dreamt of becoming a birdwatcher. The earliest of my primary schools, where I studied for four years till the age of eight, stood by the banks of river Pamba in Malakkara, southern Kerala. The fish in the river and the earthworms in the moisture rich lands nearby, made it an inviting place for the birds. To my imagination, some of them became “tourists” from distant lands. I stared past the school gate, to spot birds — many of them with their outlandish head gears and split tail ends —…


In 2016, I led a research study in partnership with the UN Office of Information and Communication Technology (UN OICT) to understand the factors within the organizational culture of the UN which fosters as well as impedes innovation (with an emphasis on technological innovation). Sharing here a brief summary of the findings:


[Published in UN OICT Newsletter, April 26, 2016]

As I researched the impact of organizational culture on innovation at the United Nations, in partnership with Unite Labs, the Office of Information and Communications Technology’s (OICT) innovation unit, a striking observation was that innovation projects deemed successful often entail inter-agency and external partnerships. This observation corresponds with a conceptual framework that Professor John Bessant calls “spaghetti innovation”, which emphasizes the need to weave more “strands” and “connections” in and out of an innovation network to facilitate “knowledge flows.”

Since the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) created an innovation unit in 2007…


[Published in Agenda for International Development (A-id), October 26, 2015]

In June 2015, the wire service Reuters ran a unique story — the “water wives” in Western India. The story quoted a man who said: “My first wife was busy with the kids. When my second wife fell sick and was unable to fetch water, I married a third.” He alluded to the water scarcity in the drought prone region of Maharashtra, but more strikingly, his words unwittingly cast light on the status of women engaged in unpaid work.

Before the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, March 1995) and…

Ardra Manasi

Development practitioner & writer | Former policy consultant & researcher with United Nations | I work in migration, gender policy & technology for development.

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